I’ve said before that the horror of human nature scare me the most, and Tailgate is a shining example of that dark side of humanity. One of my biggest real-life fears is murderous road rage, and this flick delivered the scares in that arena.
Tailgate follows a day in the life of Hans (Jeroen Spitzenberger) and his family. Along with his wife, Diana (Anniek Pheifer), and two daughters, he sets out to visit his parents on his ailing father’s birthday. From the get-go, Hans is short-tempered and anxious to get on the road. It’s not long before the family is caught in heavy traffic, and stuck behind a slow-moving van.
Slow is a relative term here, as Hans is already driving well over the speed limit. Despite this fact, he allows his impatience to get the best of him and engages in aggressive driving behavior. Not long after tailgating and honking at the driver of the van, he has a chance to pass and does so, only to end up encountering the other driver at an upcoming fuel stop.
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At this point, face-to-face interactions between the driver and Hans intensify, and it’s not long after their departure from the gas station that the family realizes they’re being followed. What comes next is intense and unexpected, and becomes a true day from Hell for the family.
I’ll keep any further plot details to myself to avoid spoilers. Let’s jump into everything that worked well about this film. It’s the first thriller I’ve seen in a while that was a true nail biter. I was anxious from the get-go. Hans and his snappiness and impatience with his family had me on edge at the start, and my own anxiety never let up until the end of the film.
The tension building is excellent and the acting is solid on all accounts. The daughters were the most endearing characters, along with the grandparents. I had a lot of empathy for them and the family in general despite my distaste for Hans. His pride and macho attitude put his entire family in danger. I think it’s intentional that Hans is unlikeable—it adds to the tension and viewer understanding of the antagonist throughout the film. While it’s clear that the man driving the van is mentally unstable, it’s hard not to understand some of his motivation.
There’s some predictability with the plot, but overall this was a great film. Judging based on the cover and description, I assumed I was in for a gorier ride, but that wasn’t the case. Tailgate manages to scare the viewer without the addition of supernatural forces or bloody scenes, and that’s one of its strengths.
This one will have me rethinking my action on the road, and double-checking my rearview for some time to come.
Tailgate is available on digital and VOD as of 7/30.
WICKED RATING: 9/10